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According to the Aztec myth, when the god Quetzalcóatl came down to Earth and married the beautiful princess of Tula, to celebrate it, he created a paradise where there were all kinds of precious stones, plants and trees, among which was the tree of cocoa. But this was the food of the gods, and they, angry, wanted to take revenge on Quetzalcóatl for having stolen it and murdered his wife. With nothing to do, Quetzalcóatl cried on the bloody earth and right there sprouted the cacahuaquahitl, a tree with the best cocoa in the world. That is why it is said that its fruit is “bitter as suffering, strong as virtue and red as the blood of the princess”.

The truth is that cocoa was discovered in the Amazon basin, and for a long time it acclimatized in Mesoamerica, the region formed by Central America and Mexico. Although there is no exact record of the moment, it is estimated that the origin dates back to around 1900 BC. The Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures were the first to recognize its value. They saw cocoa as a sacred food and its consumption was considered a ceremonial act that allowed them to connect with their spiritual guides.

At first, cocoa was consumed in the form of a bitter and frothy drink called “xocoatl” or “chocolatl”, made with the roasted and ground seeds of the plant. This drink was reserved exclusively for the elite and was believed to have magical, energetic and healing qualities. Its valuation was such that some cultures even used it as a currency of exchange.

Female spirit

Within the ancestral worldview, cocoa was associated with fertility, abundance and life. Therefore, the spirit of cocoa was considered to be feminine, representing creative energy. Andean cultures worked with different plants as medicinal methods and for this reason they knew the spirits behind them. Thus, with the desire to connect with its energetic properties, they used this plant in various ceremonies and rituals.

To this day, this belief continues, which is why during the cacao ritual this plant is able to gently and receptively guide people to these states of higher consciousness. Unlike other hallucinogenic plants, cocoa is activated little by little in the body and that is why it is said to be a container plant, very maternal in the way it expresses itself and heals.

At the same time, cacao has also been linked to the goddess of the earth and fertility in various Andean cultures. For example, in Mayan mythology, there is the figure of Ixcacau, the goddess of cocoa and corn, who symbolizes the fertility of the earth and is venerated as the protector of crops.

In addition to these symbolic associations, the role of women in the cultivation and processing of cocoa has been fundamental in Andean communities. Historically, women have played a central role in cocoa production, from planting and caring for the trees to preparing the seeds and making the drink. Andean women have passed on their traditional knowledge and techniques from generation to generation, preserving the connection between this sacred plant and the feminine spirit.

World conquest

Cocoa was introduced to Europe after contact between Europeans and Mesoamerican peoples during the period of conquest and colonization. The Spanish, in particular, played a key role in the spread of cocoa in Europe and in the development of new forms of consumption, such as hot chocolate with milk and sugar. Although this food has been cultivated for centuries in the indigenous cultures of the Andean regions of South America, in countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia, over the centuries it became popular throughout the world until it became one of the most appreciated and used ingredients in the chocolate industry.

A star product

In addition to its cultural and ritual value, cocoa also has great nutritional benefits. It is full of bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body; and contains minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, as well as B vitamins. At the same time, cocoa consumption plays a key role in stimulating the production of serotonin in the brain, also known as the “hormone of happiness”. For this reason, it is said that cocoa is an antidepressant food, which generates joy, improves mood and reduces stress; and in some cultures it is still used for medicinal purposes.

Currently, cocoa is widely used in the production of chocolate and other food products. Cocoa is processed to obtain cocoa butter and cocoa powder, which are fundamental ingredients in the production of different types of chocolate, such as milk chocolate, dark or white chocolate. However, in the Andean regions, traditional varieties of cocoa are still cultivated and the tradition of its consumption in the form of a drink is maintained. The Andean communities have preserved their ancestral knowledge and techniques in the cultivation and processing of cocoa; and many of them practice organic and sustainable agriculture, respecting natural cycles and avoiding the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Although also, cocoa is used in various ways in numerous industries. In the cosmetics industry, for example, cocoa butter is used to make skin and hair care products. Thus, it is found in lotions, moisturizers, and lip balms. In ancient times, the medicinal and cosmetic uses of cocoa were also inexhaustible. The oil that was extracted from the seed was used as a flavoring, and with the cocoa butter that was obtained from the fat of the seeds, ointments were prepared to treat problems such as dry skin, burns, and chapped lips.

Even today cacao and Andean cultures maintain a deep and significant connection. This sacred plant has been a fundamental food in the traditions and rituals of these cultures, and Andean communities continue to cultivate it and preserve their rich cultural heritage. A divine food with which Quetzalcóatl rewarded men and conquered the world.

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